Fresh off a tremendous win over the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks squared off against the Charlotte Hornets in their second game of the NBA In-Season Tournament.
They got some help, as Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to action after missing the last matchup due to a sore calf. When their starting five has been at full strength, the Bucks have been pretty good this season, and that trend continued against Charlotte. That said, let us look at some positive signs from the game, which resulted in a big 130-99 win on the road.
Many positives on display as Milwaukee Bucks beat Charlotte Hornets in NBA In-Season Tournament
One of the reasons the Bucks were able to take down the Raptors without Antetokounmpo was the excellent play of their starting backcourt. Even with the Greek Freak back on the floor, the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and Malik Beasley continued their recent hot streak, having both clocked in great games.
Lillard finished with 27 points, a game-high. He was extremely efficient all-around, shooting 9-of-18 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from three, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. After a slow start to the season offensively, Lillard has been heating up lately, which is a welcoming sign. In addition to his scoring output, Lillard made an impact with five assists, five rebounds, and a steal.
Speaking of great shooters, Beasley was hot throughout this contest, shooting 6-of-10 from 3-point land and 7-of-12 overall. He now has 50 points and 14 3-point makes in his last two matchups. This type of scoring and perimeter shooting could be a true difference-maker for the Bucks, especially as Khris Middleton continues to have his minutes monitored.
With the backcourt thriving, Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn't tasked with shouldering most of the scoring load, as he tallied just 16 points. That allowed him to serve as more of a facilitator, having finished with a season-high nine assists. He nearly had a triple double, having also notched eight rebounds. It was great to see Antetokounmpo back out there are missing the previous outing.
Brook Lopez has had a tough time finding his shot this season, but that was not the case against Charlotte. He shot 7-of-8 from the floor en route to a 15-point performance to give Milwaukee a jolt on that end. On top of that, he was in full force defensively, having added six blocked shots to his season total with a defensive masterclass in the paint.
Milwaukee got a nice boost from their veteran reserve tandem as well, with Bobby Portis finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds and Pat Connaughton getting 11 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. These are the two players who should be leading the bench brigade, especially with players like MarJon Beauchamp and Jae Crowder sidelined, and they did just that against Charlotte.
It seems like it's becoming a common theme to say, but Andre Jackson Jr. had another eye-catching performance. Even though he only played seven and a half minutes, the guard made plenty of sweet plays, having hit a pair of nice 3-pointers while notching two fancy assists. The youngster just keeps dazzling whenever he gets time, and there could be a lot more of it in his future.
Ultimately, it was a quality win for the Bucks, who will have little time to rest as they take on the Dallas Mavericks Saturday. There's still plenty of room to grow, but there were plenty of positive signs on both sides of the ball for the Bucks, whether it was Lillard heating up, Lopez asserting himself in the paint, and much more. Hopefully the team keeps trending up.
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